15 senators push reprimand of Parlade over ‘stupid’ quip
MANILA, Philippines — In a show of unity, 15 proadministration and opposition senators on Tuesday moved to reprimand Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. for calling them “stupid” in response to their threat to defund the anticommunist task force over the military officer’s “Red-tagging” of some community pantry organizers.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon led their colleagues in filing proposed Senate Resolution No. 709 to censure the spokesperson for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) for his “disrespectful and demeaning statements.”
Human rights groups say that red-tagging, or the labeling of critics of the government as members or supporters of the communist insurgency, has led to deadly attacks against activists.
At the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Michael Romero, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, had called for an inquiry into how the NTF-Elcac was using its P19-billion budget, including the biggest chunk amounting to about P16 billion for a supposed development program for some 800 barangays reported to have been freed of communist rebel influence.
The planned investigation was prompted by the “heavy criticisms and condemnation” by the public of the remarks made by Parlade and another task force spokesperson, Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, against some organizers of the community pantry, the food aid movement spreading across the country.
Lack of respect
The senators said Parlade’s statements betrayed his misunderstanding and disrespect of the Senate’s mandate and his own duties as a military officer.
“[Instead] of engaging in a constructive debate … Parlade has chosen to demean and disparage the senators, through statements that display his limited grasp of Congress’ role in the budget process and show his lack of respect not just for the senators as duly-elected representatives of the people but also for the Senate as an institution,” the resolution read in part.
In a television interview on April 22, Parlade said that it would be stupid for the senators to defund the task force after they approved its budget last year.
“Do they want to remove that [budget] or did they not understand the law they signed? So I think that’s unfair what these senators are saying … and I’m telling you they are the ones who are stupid if they want to take back [the funding],” he said. “They signed off on that law to be of service, continue government programs for the poor, and then they’ll defund it?”
His remarks followed criticisms by Sen. Richard Gordon of the red-tagging by the task force of the organizers of community pantries, saying it was “imbecilic,” “stupid” and “shameful.”
Not all the senators support defunding the task force or realigning its budget but they all agreed that Parlade and Badoy must go.
The number of authors of the proposed resolution was more than what’s needed to pass the bipartisan reprimand against a general in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which would have to be adopted in a plenary session.
The other authors are Senators Gordon, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Leila de Lima, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino Pimentel III, Grace Poe and Joel Villanueva.
“[It] should be emphasized that members of the [AFP] should always remain apolitical while in active service, otherwise, it threatens the democratic principle of civilian supremacy over the military, as provided under Article II Section 3 of the Constitution,” the senators said.
They also said that contrary to Parlade’s assertions, “progressive thinking is not communism and expression of opinions or criticisms and purposeful involvement in humanitarian community efforts do not constitute rebellion, sedition, or terrorism.”
Basis to realign funds
“If Parlade’s pronouncements and profiling of community pantry organizers were done pursuant to NTF-Elcac’s policy direction, then the agency has clearly departed from its mandate and members of the Senate have basis to realign its funds to more worthy causes that would make better use of [taxpayer] money,” the senators said.
The resolution will place no legal burden on Parlade as it “has no effect and force of law” under Senate rules, but it will be a forceful expression of the senators’ sentiments on a national issue and the officer’s conduct.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Parlade said he wasn’t “backing down,” but apologized to senators whom he “inadvertently” insulted. “Tho I never said ALL of them are stupid,” he added.
“I know they want my head but how do we describe or call senators who want to take back the barangay development fund of cleared barangays, just because of the NTF spox? What about senators who think I’m getting paid by the NTF?” he said, referring to his earlier statement that he was not receiving extra pay for his job as task force spokesperson.
“As a soldier am I not entitled to call them for what they are? Do they deserve to be addressed honorable? Is calling one otherwise an attack to the institution?”
Appealing to the public, he said: “There is no backing down but I need your support.”
President Duterte’s national security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who is the vice chair of the task force, on Sunday said he told Parlade and Badoy to “desist from making further comments” on the community pantries “so that it will not appear that they are against the spirit of bayanihan.”
—WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR CORRALES
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.